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Traveling Rainer: California's Imperial Sand Dunes and the Plank Road

California's Imperial Sand Dunes today

Imperial Sand Dunes:  The Plank RoadImperial Sand Dunes

This color photo is what California's Imperial Sand Dunes look like today from my vantage point just south of Interstate 8. 

The dunes themselves haven't changed since time immemorial.  What's changed in the last century is the road.  I-10 allows cars and trucks to traverse the dunes at 70 miles per hour in just a few minutes. It wasn't always the cae.

Between 1909 and 1927, Henry Ford built more than 15,000,000 Model T cars and trucks.  The Ford Motor Company transformed the way people in the United States moved around. 

Arizona became the 48th state of the Union in 1912.  People were moving west!  An Arizona business person wanting to travel between southern Arizona and California had to traverse seven miles of sand dunes, and those little skinny tires on the Model T didn't get it!

The original Plank Road

The solution was to create a modular, tongue and groove road in 8' x 12' sections.  Seven miles of plank road!  When the sand dunes would shift, covering the plank road, teams of horses were used to reposition the sections.

Double wide sections at intervals allowed vehicles to pass one another without getting stuck in the sand.

It was the only means motorists had of traversing the Imperial Sand Dunes.  Today, only a few sections of the original plank road remain, and you can see them if you pull off of Interstate 8 at the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area.

Imperial Sand Dunes: The Plank Road

Photo by Mike in Tucson  (Model T truck is not my photo.)

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Comment balloon 38 commentsMike Jones • July 13 2010 06:46AM
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